Bay City Rollers Biography

Originally formed during 1967 in Edinburgh, the Bay City Rollers was formed as a Beatles covers band based round two brothers, Derek Longmuir (19 March 1955, Edinburgh, Scotland; drums) and Alan Longmuir (b. 20 June 1953, Edinburgh, Scotland; bass). After falling into the hands of entrepreneur Tam Paton, they played consistently on the Scottish circuit until their big break in 1971. A posse of record company talent spotters, including Bell Records’ president Dick Leahy, producer Tony Calder and agent David Apps, witnessed their live performance and within months they were in the UK Top 10. The hit, a revival of the Gentrys’ ‘Keep On Dancing’, produced by Jonathan King, proved a one-off and for the next couple of years they struggled. Names such as Nobby Clark and John Devine came and went, until they finally found a relatively stable line-up with the Edinburgh-born trio of Les McKeown (b. 12 November 1955; vocals), Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood (b. 25 February 1957; guitar) and Eric Faulkner (b. 21 October 1955; guitar). With the songwriting assistance of Phil Coulter and Bill Martin, they enjoyed a steady run of teen-orientated hits, including ‘Remember (Sha-La-La)’, ‘Shang-A-Lang’, ‘Summerlove Sensation’ and ‘All Of Me Loves All Of You’. Paton remained firmly in control of their visual image (all fresh faces clad in tartan scarves and trousers) which struck a chord with young teenagers and pre-pubescent fans in search of pin-up pop stars. 1975 proved the watershed year with two consecutive UK number 1 hits, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ (a Four Seasons cover version) and ‘Give A Little Love’. That same year they topped the US charts with ‘Saturday Night’.

Further line-up changes followed with the arrival of Ian Mitchell and Billy Lyall, but these did not detract from the band’s following. Rollermania was triumphant. Inevitably, there was a backlash as the press determined to expose the truth behind the band’s virginal, teetotal image. During the next three years, disaster was heaped upon disaster. McKeown was charged with reckless driving after hitting and killing a 75-year-old widow, and Eric Faulkner and Alan Longmuir attempted suicide.

Paton was subsequently jailed for committing indecent acts with underage teenagers, Ian Mitchell starred in a pornographic movie and Billy Lyall died from an AIDS-related illness in 1989. It was a tawdry conclusion to one of the most famous teenybop acts in British pop history. When Faulkner attempted to re-form the band in 1992, unemployed music fan David Gates stole their guitars and hid them in a derelict house. He later claimed in court that he was attempting to ‘save the world from the Bay City Rollers’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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